[Review] Piczle Cross Adventure – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: Score Studios
  • Publisher: Plug In Digital
  • Release date: 16/4/2020
  • Price: £8.99 / $9.99
  • Review code provided by Plug In Digital

Introducing: Piczle Cross Adventure Switch Review

I adore Picross (or nonograms if you actually call them that)! I have ever since I was first introduced to them by a Nancy Drew computer game where they served as a single puzzle. Ever since, I’ve always been eager to jump on any chance to dive into games that let me get a crack at some of the puzzles. Yeah, that’s right, I’m someone who actually paid to be able to constantly play Pokémon Picross on the 3DS.

While I have been trapped inside and working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic, picross games on the switch have been one of my greatest sources of entertainment, to the point where I’ve had to move my switch charger to beside my spot on the couch because I am constantly burning out my Switch battery on them. I was just looking at the eShop for what to pick up next, when Piczle Cross Adventure was dropped in my lap! Perfect timing too, because it was one of the games that I was curious about maybe picking up. Should I have ponied up for it though?

Expanding the Puzzler

I have to admit that I have perhaps been a little spoiled by this year’s Murder by Numbers. I picked it up just two weeks before my area went into lockdown and I really blame it for putting me on such a picross kick over the last few months.  One of my favorite things that it did was introduce a story into a picross game, something that is not very common in these sorts of puzzle collections. Most of the other ones that I have looked at have a bare minimum of story or are just menus where you pick a puzzle and go from there. Piczle Cross Adventure caught my eye from the start by having a lengthy opening sequence after which I was granted access to an open world picross game with a story, something I was looking for and glad to get.

Piczle Cross Adventure is actually part of series of puzzle games that follow the same characters. While I haven’t played any of them, it’s not really needed as you’re given the gist that this is not the first time that you’ve had to save the town by solving puzzles and that’s about as much backstory that you need. In this particular entry, a robot that looks just like you is running around the town and using some kind of a beam gun to vaporize various things into pixels which you restore by, you guessed it, solving picross puzzles! The story is simple, but fact that I have the option to step away from it and wander off into another area to look at what puzzles are there and come back to the story at any point was really refreshing.

The writing isn’t something that I ended up paying much attention to since most of my time was spent actually solving puzzles, but whenever I was reading dialog, I loved it. Your character, Score-chan, has this light wit to her that just makes taking her around the world fun. She gives a little more insight to the local area that of course someone living there would know. Restore a soccer ball in someone’s yard? Score-chan will tell you that it’s hers and she was too scared to go and get it back. There’s also some light fourth-wall breaking, but it’s never more than little winks to the player and never gets to the point of being obnoxious.

Let’s Take on the World

Now, I mentioned that this was an open world game, and that is true, after a point. You gain experience towards leveling up each time that you solve a picross grid. Nothing really changes when you do this, aside from some humorous stat ups and flavor text (One level told me I could now get a library card!). But, there is a spot or two where you will be roadblocked until you reach a certain level. Harder puzzles are level locked until the game figures that you have enough of a handle on things to go from a 5×5 or 10×10 grid up to the 15×15. There are also some paths that are blocked behind solving a puzzle to clear the way. For example, you have to solve the puzzle for the cave entrance for that doorway to be there. There are also items to find and bring back to places to get access or secrets. Despite being an open world, the way that it opens up to you feels very natural, so long as you are solving the puzzles in each area and not trying to just rush forward without fixing things. Once you do open up some of the paths and shortcuts, the game actually loops into itself very satisfyingly. There was really only one place that I found to be a little more of a hassle to get to. 

As for the puzzle solving itself, I found it to really well done. Like I said, I play a lot of picross and there were some puzzles here that had me stumped for a little while. This game actually had one of the features that I sometimes miss in other picross titles and that was an option to just clear the entire grid so that I could restart it. Sometimes you make a mistake so far back it would basically mean undoing everything anyway, and being able to do so with just a quick trip to the menu instead of clearing things out by hand was wonderful. All the puzzles that you solve can be gone back to later (once you get the item to do so, which is fairly early in) which is always nice, since I can pick this up to just play a few puzzles and try and beat my speed records on them instead of having to play through the entire game again to get new times. There’s also a decent amount of options so that you can tailor the puzzle solving to your preferred methods or get a little extra helping hand from the game.

There isn’t a lot of shakeup in the puzzles in terms of doing something different with the core concepts of a picross grid, but I was excited to see that even late into the game there was variety in the shape and size of the grid. It wasn’t like I got deep enough and suddenly everything was a 15×20 grid, there were still plenty of 15×10 or 15×15 grids to keep me entertained as well. I was also glad to see that for larger restorations there were multiple parts grids where you would solve a segment at a time. These are often harder since the piece of the grid might not make out something itself, but putting them all together and seeing a whole house restored and then be able to go inside and solve more puzzles there was supremely delightful and satisfying.

Beautifying the Neighborhood

Piczle Cross Adventure is absolutely beautiful! The pixel art work in both the characters and that world itself are just drop dead gorgeous and full of detail, to the point where a lot of the screenshots that I took were of the world rather than my picross grids. I’m not as thrilled by the character design since the massive heads of the people in this game were a bit off-putting to me, but I will admit that the art that made those big heads is lovingly crafted. The one caveat to this being that when you first start the game there will be some filters to give the aesthetic of an old CRT, giving lines and blurring things (see above). This was hard for me personally to play with, but since it can be turned off in the settings it’s not really an issue.

Even more wonderfully, when you bring something back into the world, it really is brought back into the world. Restore a building and you might be able to go inside. If you solve a puzzle that was a single shinto arch, the whole path will be lined with them to reward you. There really is a tangible feeling that you are restoring a lot more than just a single item with some of the puzzles that you will be working on and it’s something that is present from the start of the game. Early on you have to restore the entire contents of a convenience store, and while that feels really daunting at first, it’s so satisfying to see the finished result. It had me aiming for 100% completion of the game early on.

Wrong Spot

I will admit that there was one or two little technical hiccups while I was playing the game, but it saves so frequently that closing the game and opening it back up was never more than a momentary break from the puzzling action. In specific, I got trapped in place by a food cart that I restored and could not walk past but only spin in the spot I was stuck in, thanks to standing in the perfectly wrong spot. This was only a one time occurrence though, so I don’t feel inclined to fault the game. 

Puzzle Solved!

If you’ve read this far then you’ll find it no surprise that I wholeheartedly support this game and am at least interested in taking a look at the rest of the series in the future to see if they bring anything similar to the table, though they seem to be focused on different types of puzzles. If you have any interest, you can pick Piczle Cross Adventure up on it’s own, or find it in a bundle alongside PictoQuest: The Cursed Grids (which you can see the Nintendad review of here).

Pros

  • Excellent picross puzzling
  • Delightful writing
  • Beautiful pixel art
  • A real sense that you are affecting the world

Cons

  • You cannot pet the animals

Verdict

Piczle Cross Adventure is endlessly delightful for picross puzzle fans and has left me completely spoiled!

5/5

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